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Three Kisses: When Terrorism Hits Close To Home

What happens when a member of Al Qaeda secretly enters our midst?
In Heath Daniels new book, Three Kisses, readers are taken on a wild pursuit of a traitor, across borders and through some of the government's top secret operations.

From the first chapters, a dozen or so characters are presented in colorful ways in situations and events that are so complex and so appealing I bet I was not the only reader who wondered if the writer would be able to keep up so much suspense and so many different stories tangled together for the remaining of the book more...

Is the story autobiographical?

Many questions have been asked about the author and his experiences. Here are some of those questions and Heath’s answers:

Is the story autobiographical?

No! As I explain in the Afterword, I have zealously avoided depicting any real persons, not even with thin disguises or composites. That includes me.

Of course, any author draws on his or her life experiences, travels, and other things in his or her past, and I am no exception. I have been blessed with a particularly rich set of experiences that have fed my knowledge and sparked inspirations and creativity. While no specific experiences in my past are in the story, there has obviously been a lot of influence.

If it is not autobiographical, then what is the source of all the things about the U.S. armed forces?

Like almost every male U.S. citizen my age, I was subject to the universal draft. When it was obvious that my draft number was about to be picked (this was pre-lottery), I looked for alternatives. My education and experience allowed me to become an officer in one of the services. My duties involved travel to many installations in the U.S. and in other countries. I did not make a career of military service, though. Later in my professional life, I interacted with certain parts of the U.S. armed forces in other capacities. Yes, I learned a lot and observed a lot.

Much of what I write about, though, is readily available from the public domain just by reading, going to movies, searching the internet, and general conversation. It was not necessary to have been in Cuba to know quite a bit about what happens at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, to give just one example.

If this is not autobiographical, then how could it have such an extensive gay theme running through it?

As I explained in the Afterword, much of what I wrote was inspiration that was kicking and screaming until I wrote it down. That applies to much of the things I wrote about gay persons. That is too simple of an answer, though.

In the latter part of my life, I had occasion to get to know many gay persons. In particular, two of the churches I attended welcomed and affirmed gay persons, even though the congregations had large majorities of obviously heterosexual persons (and some who did not identify themselves). In both of these situations, the church involved was the nearest church to where I lived and it was logical I would look there first to find a church home; I discovered the welcoming and affirming status after attending and becoming involved. In the process, I learned that gay men and women live lives pretty much like other members of society and cover the broad spectrum of humanity. The only thing that gays have in common is the gender of the person with whom they have affectional attractions; otherwise they are as diverse as heterosexuals. Because gay persons make up a significant minority of the population, it is reasonable that they should be involved in adventures and intrigues just like anyone else.

Please let me add that I did not know any gays in the U.S. armed forces. It is very easy to learn about gays in the armed forces, though, from numerous public domain sources. As early as the late 1970s, Time magazine had a cover picture of a gay U.S. Air Force sergeant who was being discharged because of his public admission of homosexuality. Throughout the Clinton administration and afterwards, the media have given much attention to issues such as “don’t ask; don’t tell”. It is very easy to do research to fill any gaps in one’s knowledge.

This is not autobiographical, you say, but your depictions of things in the Middle East suggest that you must have been there. Right?

My professional career has allowed me to travel to virtually every part of the world. So yes, it is fair to say I have been in the Middle East. The Middle East, though, was not the area of my professional travels where I spent the most time. As I explained in the Afterword, because of events involving al Qaeda, it became apparent that the Middle East would have to be a prominent part of the story, and my professional experiences there did help. As above, though, there is a rich source of information on the internet and the media to keep us very well informed about the Middle East if we just open up and observe.

This is not autobiographical, but you seem to have a strong affinity for Arabs. Is your ancestry Arab?

No, as I mention in the Afterword, my heritage is basic, generic Anglo-Celtic with a couple of other things thrown in. I am not aware that in my personality I have a particular affinity for Arabs—no more so than say for Latin Americans for example. Because I was writing a book that necessarily had its origins in the Arab Middle East, though, it was necessary for me to inform myself about Arabs and their culture. It wasn’t all that difficult to do, and my travels to the Middle East mentioned above certainly contributed. But there are many ways one can become aware of Arabs and their culture without traveling there.

As mentioned in the Afterword, I read an article in the Herald Tribune—or was it the New York Times—about the Yemini community in Lackawanna, New York which soon realized was the ideal starting point for developing major parts of the plot. But Arabs have been prominent in the U.S. for many years. Back in the 1950s, the prominent Hollywood entertainer Danny Thomas spoke proudly of his Lebanese ancestry and often joked that he was an Arab who made it in an industry dominated by Jewish people. Few realize that he likely did not change his name; Danny Thomas would be a common enough name in Lebanon, although the pronunciation is a bit different in the Arabic language. In the same era, Najeeb Halaby was a pioneer in the U.S. airline industry and actively involved in the first U.S. government Federal Aviation Administration. Arab-Americans have served in both houses of the U.S. Congress; one at the moment is Congressman Raha of West Virginia. Donna Shalala, Secretary of Education during the Clinton administration is another prominent Arab-American. Traveling through the U.S., especially in the Southwestern states, one sees several Syrian Orthodox churches. A web search like the one I did when I introduced the character of Lieutenant Anthony Gorani, indicates that there are also several Egyptian Coptic churches throughout the U.S.

Some persons have commented to me that these are not Arabs; they are Lebanese and Christian. Well, ask the Lebanese in the U.S. and elsewhere if they are Arab and you will certainly be informed that such is the case; they are proud of their Arab heritage. And yes it seems the majority of Arabs in the U.S., at least until recently, are Christian even though there are no reliable statistics. There are plenty of Arab Christians in the world who are proudly Arab. One does not have to be Muslim to be a proud Arab.

You must obviously have had some experiences with Islam because that plays such a prominent role in the story. Right?

Why is it so obvious that I had some experiences with Islam? Again, because of the story line, it was necessary to inform myself about Islam, especially Islam in the U.S. There are several books on the subject and other public domain media sources that are readily available. For example, a couple of years ago, an issue of Economist featured Islam in America; the cover picture showed a magnificent mosque that would rival any in, say, the UAE or Turkey, but it was located in Dearborn, Michigan.

I am unashamedly Christian and a regular churchgoer. Islam and Christianity coexisted very happily for well over 1,000 years until recently. The Christians are equally as culpable, if not more so, as the Muslims for the rupture of relations between the two religions, both of whom are ‘people of the book’ in the view of the Muslims. While I know few Muslims personally, and none well enough to have deep religious discussions, I have attempted to learn enough to develop a realistic story.

But aren’t you being too soft on the Muslims. After all, they have committed horrible acts of violence in the name of Islam.

It does not seem to me that I am being particularly soft. The story line begins with a terrorist act by Islamic extremists to infiltrate the U.S. It wasn’t violent and bloody, though, and doesn’t have to be to represent a terrorist act. If I am being soft on anyone, it is on Christian terrorism. Among the most horrible terrorist acts in the history of mankind were the Crusades conducted in the name of Christianity. Even in the last 30 years one has to look no further than Northern Ireland, Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda to find terrorists who are at least nominal Christians. Their activities did not fit well into the story so I do not dwell on them. Obviously, Christianity is not a religion of terrorism despite the fact that some persons calling themselves Christians commit terrorist acts. Likewise, Islam is not a religion of terrorism despite the fact some persons calling themselves Muslims commit terrorist acts. From the outset, my purpose has been to portray realistic characters and situations no matter what their religion, with no other agenda.

Why do you use a pseudonym and why are you so reluctant to disclose too many details about yourself?

The use of pseudonyms is commonplace; why should I be any different? The primary reason is that I am still active professionally and still write and make occasional public appearances professionally. I prefer that persons read my professional material and hear my professional presentations because of the merit of the content. It could detract from those professional messages, if audiences were distracted by my fiction writing.